Four Years Later

 

Four years ago today, I wrote this. My life changed forever that day.

I still have a Janet-shaped hole in my heart. I always will. I still notice her absence with every day that passes.

The worst time remains at night. I always went to bed earlier than her. For 40 years, I would wake up in the middle of the night and roll over, and she would be there. No matter how bad the day had been, I knew I could wake her and talk about it. Most nights, no matter how bad the day had been, I would roll over and go back to sleep because I knew she was there, and I could talk to her about it.

Now? I wake up. I roll over. She is not there. Sometimes after bad days, I can get back to sleep. Most times? Not really. Often if I cannot get back to sleep, I will get up and spend time writing. I spent a lot of nights writing in 2018 and 2019. Still do today, although not as many as before.

This is not to say the past four years have been bad ones. Rather the contrary. I have paid off all my debts. I have been successful professionally as a technical writer and most recently as an engineer. (I am back working at JSC, and except for the COVID nonsense that seems to accompany a position working for the federal government, it has been fun.) I am making money faster than I can spend it, and by my standards, I consider myself a wealthy man. I could quit working tomorrow and never notice a financial hit.

Even there, I wonder how much of that good fortune is due to Jan’s absence. There were jobs I could not take while she was alive, because I had to be at home, with her. (Ironically, before remote work became de rigueur for the laptop class.) Her care was a money sink. A lot of my remaining financial burden eased once I hit 65 and no longer had to pay health insurance as a self-employed individual. Since she was four years younger than me, I would still have to keep health insurance for both of us (since she was covered as a spouse), which would cost in excess of $20,000 annually. Plus, the past two years, with COVID, would have been a nightmare had she been alive as a cancer survivor.

Despite that, I would trade all my financial fortune since her death for her presence. Kipling may be right. “He travels the fastest who travels alone.” I’d still rather wait for the laggard behind. Because ultimately it is who you travel with, not how fast you get there. Especially when your path changes, and you do not know whether it leads to Gehenna or the throne of God. Either way, company would be appreciated.

Personally, I consider myself blessed. My three sons have developed into successful men. The oldest two are married, and I have had two grandchildren arrive since Janet died, with a third due this month. A nephew seeking a job in Houston moved in with me six months after Janet died, and I have not been living alone since then. His career has taken off, and he plans to get married in September. He will move out before then, but that won’t bother me. It will be like when my sons left, not when my wife left. Everyone is healthy, including me.

I am seeing a woman. She goes to the same church I attend. Her husband died of cancer the year before Janet did. She understands my pain, I understand hers. Neither of us is jealous of the other’s dead spouse. Rather the contrary. But neither is yet willing to commit to the other. It is a lot easier to pledge to share each other’s lives and fortunes when you are starting out in life with a lot of life ahead and you have so little fortune that it does not matter. Age makes one cautious.

As does the knowledge of loss. Could either of us go through the second loss of a spouse? I could not imagine losing a spouse through death when Janet and I married. We were going to live forever. Now? I not only know of the certainty that one spouse will die before the other, I know what it means. Could I go through that again? Could I put someone else through that? I honestly don’t know. Maybe I will feel differently in a few more years.

I will close repeating what I said four years ago. If you are married, do me a favor. Today, give your spouse a hug and a kiss, and tell them you love them. For no particular reason — just because. You will never regret having done that. After you no longer can, you will regret every opportunity you passed up doing so. That hour might arrive sooner than you think.

Published in Group Writing
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 20 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    God bless you, Seawriter.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Bless you.

    • #2
  3. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Many blessings in what lies ahead for you.

    • #3
  4. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    Blessings, I know that the wisdom and depth with which you express yourself in so many areas is a reflection just as much of you and Janet as it is of you alone, a lasting evidence of her.

    • #4
  5. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Beautiful lessons, beautifully written.

    • #5
  6. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    Seawriter: If you are married, do me a favor. Today give your spouse a hug, a kiss, and tell them you love them. For no particular reason – just because. You will never regret having done that. After you no longer can, you will regret every opportunity you passed up doing so. That hour might arrive sooner than you think.

    Sage wisdom from a great man. Thank you. 

    • #6
  7. Bigfoot - Human Impersonator Coolidge
    Bigfoot - Human Impersonator
    @Bigfoot

    Comfort and blessings for you and your family

     

    • #7
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Seawriter: I could not imagine losing a  spouse through death when Janet and I married. We were going to live forever. Now?  I not only know of the certainty that one spouse will die before the other, I know what it means. Could I go through that again? Could I put someone else through that? I honestly don’t know. Maybe I will feel differently in a few more years.

    I know that this little poem is trite, but it has stuck with me over the years:

    One or the other must leave

    One or the other must stay

    One or the other must grieve

    That is forever the way

    That is the vow that was sworn

    Faithful till death us do part

    Bearing what has to be borne

    Hiding the grief in one’s heart

    One howsoever adored

    First must be summoned away

    That is the will of the Lord

    One or the other must stay

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It’s hard to believe that four years have passed, although the time probably seems much longer to you, Seawriter. This was a sweet and beautiful tribute to the relationship you had. I’m glad to learn that you’ve found someone you like to spend your time with, and also can appreciate your caution. However life unfolds for you, I wish you the best.

    • #9
  10. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Thanks for sharing your melancholy thoughts and feelings.  It is hard to keep back the tears while reading.  Best of luck to you!

    • #10
  11. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    I still remember the tribute you wrote to Janet those many years ago, although I was not very active on Ricochet at the time. I was just thinking of it recently, probably because it reminds me of my mother. And her very good friend who recently passed. There was no funeral for her, and it seems that there will be no memorial service. It may be partly Covid, and partly that she didn’t want the fuss or recognition. But I wish I could have gathered with her husband and children and that we could have shared our memories of her in person.

    I think my dad’s experience is very similar to yours, but he would never write about it with such frankness. Thank you for expressing what it’s like to survive and even thrive in the face of such profound loss.

    • #11
  12. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Death will come to us all, and your tale is as old as humanity itself, but there are still no words that are adequate.

    • #12
  13. danys Thatcher
    danys
    @danys

    Seawriter,

    Your honesty and openness are eloquent. You’ve blessed me with your words.

    @Clavius, I love you because you are you.

    • #13
  14. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Mrs. QuietPI is sitting right behind me, at her computer.  Just a sec . . . 

    There.   

    Of course, that would be the 10th or 12th time today.  Been like that for 51 years.  Not stopping now.

    Thank you, Seawriter.

    • #14
  15. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    My best regards and wishes.

    I would like to point out that most of us feel a profound sense of loss in such a situation, but very few of us could express it so well.

    • #15
  16. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Seawriter: Today, give your spouse a hug and a kiss, and tell them you love them.

    Several times a day, man . . .

    • #16
  17. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    G-d bless you and yours!

    • #17
  18. Dominique Prynne Member
    Dominique Prynne
    @DominiquePrynne

    I am so glad you have found a companion.  God knows we need one, just as He knew Adam did.  A companion to share the mundaneness of the day, observations about the news, or a lovely meal with is a balm to our human hearts.  Such companionship in no way takes away from the respect and deference we give to our lost spouse and the life we lived with them.  This makes my heart happy for you!  And I will most certainly tell my tender-hearted, but tries to look like a tough guy former Marine spouse that I love and adore him tonight.  Probably right after the fajita nachos and margaritas he already told me he is making for me for dinner!  

    • #18
  19. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Anything I could say might be  trite in the face of the grief you feel. But I thank you for letting us know where you are these days.

    It is said that time heals such a loss as yours. But does it?

    In any event, all the things you mention, especially  your view of the other prosperous parts of your life, shows how  you have developed appreciation for your family and career.

    We do the best we can in difficult situations, and that is all that can be expected of us, I think.

     

     

    • #19
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This wonderful meditation on love and loss in life is part of January’s theme: “The Time When Life Changed.” Resolve to sign up and write this month.

    • #20
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.